“Artists are so bizarre and come from such strange places”: Glenn Ligon interview below

Preview: Urbis Has Left The Building

A visitor enjoys a show about the Haçienda. Photo courtesy Urbis

Exhibition: Urbis Has Left The Building: Six Years of the Best Exhibitions In Pop Culture, Urbis, Manchester, until February 27 2010

“Best of” compilations are usually the preserve of the music industry. So if any museum has the shows to get away with the same trick, it would have to be Urbis.

Manchester’s poppiest gallery space is celebrating its short history with a final show, Urbis Has Left The Building: Six Years Of The Best Exhibitions In Pop Culture.

Since 2004 the city centre museum has staged shows on everything from graffiti and record design to manga and video games. But from 2011 the venue will be given over to an even more popular pastime as the National Museum of Football moves down the road from Preston.

Urbis Chief Executive Vaughan Allen said he was proud to have quickly established a global reputation with the museum. “No other . . . has provided popular culture with a serious platform in the way that we have, with a genuine passion that made us unique, consistently giving credibility and backing to subjects that most galleries and museums would overlook,” he commented.

Many Urbis shows have been celebrations of local talent, including graphic designer Peter Saville, fashion designer Matthew Williamson and record label Factory.

Other shows have looked as far afield as China and the US civil rights movement for inspiration; Black Panther: Emory Douglas and the Art of Revolution was rated one of the best of the decade by Museums Journal.

This will be your last chance to visit Urbis. And where else could you go to view a pair of limited edition Haçienda nightclub trainers?


Fortress of Solitude by David Blandy at 176 / Zabludowicz Collection

Published on Culture24

David Blandy – Fortress of Solitude, 176 / Zabludowicz Collection, London, until Summer 2010

Strap on the artificial guitar and fire up the games console and you are ready to enter David Blandy’s world. It is indeed, as he demonstrates, a stage. We find our truth in the roles we play.

Guitar Hero is just part of it. Fortress of Solitude includes a library of games, books, comics, films and records which invite the viewer to load up, read, or put on different mass culture artefacts. Each carries a Soul Archive label as if a piece of Blandy’s very essence.

His influences, and the show is about nothing else, are eclectic. They include Kafka and Joyce, but also Marvin Gaye and EPMD. Martial Arts seem to tie the whole lot together as the sphere where hip hop, video games and of course film collide. Way of the Samurai is the subtitle of both a book (Mishima) and a movie (Jim Jarmusch).

It could also reference Blandy’s longest running video pieces. Soul of London, Soul of the Lakes and The Five Boroughs of the Soul all star the artist in an orange kung fu suit, with staff and portable record player. Each one documents a quest or in search of truth or the meaning of soul. On the subway in New York, a barefoot Blandy explains to a bemused local that he is doing a penance.

In the Bronx, he risks getting shot. In London, he risks mockery. In Cumbria, he risks cut and bruised feet. But each film is cut and spliced with clips from the music and the movies the film-maker loves. So they combine postmodern hyperreality with real endurance, an intriguing mix.

The artist also puts himself on the line with emotive lip-synced performances of hip-hop, reggae, funk and soul classics. In Hollow Bones he even mimes along to a Syl Johnson track called Is It Because I’m Black? Blandy by the way is, apparently, not.

That could mean his performances are as hollow as the bones in the film’s title. Or it could mean that they are still bones, still the structure of his existence.